Special events slowly returning the to Borderland, what changes to expect

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — As more El Pasoans receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, the City’s biggest venues are set to host events as soon as next month.

The facilities are picking up where they left off a year ago, while enforcing changes that will keep people safe while attending.

People can start attending indoor events in the Borderland starting in May at the El Paso County Coliseum, and even as far as Las Cruces in the Summer. Officials with these events centers say they’re taking all the precautions necessary to ensure visitors’ safety.

As you know, the El Paso County Coliseum was closed for a year due to COVID-19, however is kicking off its first indoor event this year with the popular “Disney On Ice” event.

“For Disney on Ice, we’re running about a 35-percent to 38-percent capacity because that’s where we felt safest. We discussed this with the Disney on Ice people, so there’s limited seating, but they’re going to stay for two weeks to try and make that up,” said Brian Kennedy, chairman of the El Paso Sports Commission, shared.

Kennedy added that for Disney On Ice, there will be longer breaks between shows to clean house. “There’s a little longer gap between the shows because we actually fog and sterilize everything in the building after each show,” he said. “So we can’t have each shows as close to each other as we used to with Disney, we had to expand the time period.”

Other facilities like the Pan American Center at New Mexico State University will still host its major events that were rescheduled for Fall and early 2022, while following CDC and state guidelines. The facility did not face major revenue losses during the last year.

“We’ve been able to offset that with reductions in utility expenditures, remove some valuable employees to other positions on a temporary basis, so we were able to save money there in payroll,” said Scott Breckner, director of Special Events at the Pan American, said.

However, officials at both event centers say employment opportunities were the biggest challenges faced during the pandemic.

“Our student payroll and part-time payroll runs between 3.5 million dollars a year depending on the year. So those opportunities with employment did not get achieved so that was kind of disappointing,” Breckner shared.

“While we had our permanent staff, management took a furlough to make sure that we can stay. The part-time staff that we’ve been hiring on a regular basis, we didn’t hire at all. So there was probably 40 or 50 people that were used to having a part-time night-time weekend job and it suddenly went to 0 for a year and that was a significant affect for them,” Kennedy explained.

The El Paso County Coliseum said it will be mandating masks, enforce limited “pod” seating, and taking temperatures for the upcoming Disney On Ice event.

The Pan American Center will follow similar guidelines including reduced capacity, as well as replacing air filters inside the facility by July 1st, which is when it anticipates returning to full-time employment for indoor events like athletics.

“We are replacing all of our air exchange filters. We’re going to spend about $4,000 to $5,000 on that. We begin that transition in time for the July 1 timeline, all of that will be replaced,” Breckner added.

“People are really wanting to go out and do something, and it’s up to us to make sure the facilities are doing it as safely as possible,” Kennedy shared.

For a look at upcoming events such as Disney On Ice at the El Paso County Coliseum, click here. For the Pan American Center events list, click here. To check out events happening at the Don Haskins Center, click here.

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